CatastrophicFailure

Revelations of the Kraken (Chapter 31: Before the Shadow)

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14 hours ago, Thedrelle said:

"A Newt?"

"I got better"

Expect this to be milked in exactly the way that a newt is not:wacko:

9 minutes ago, qzgy said:

Not the empress? I guess the empress isn't quite main cast though.

Shhhhh<_<

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Short one coming, er, shortly. :D Reps to anyone who guesses the significance to this day (the 5th). And no, it’s not the guy in the silly mask...

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1 minute ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Short one coming, er, shortly. :D Reps to anyone who guesses the significance to this day (the 5th). And no, it’s not the guy in the silly mask...

That's a nice surprise. I was thinking of adding a "moar" earlier actually.....

also is it that whole guy fawkes thing?

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...If you gaze long enough into an abyss,
the abyss will gaze back into you...

Chapter 31: Before the Shadow

Rim Island. Or, as the natives once called it, Kahiokahumuhumunukunukuapua'apepeiao’elike’mekapipiaʻaʻolewau’emaopopoikeʻano’okēiamauhanaikēia, or, ‘the place of the triggerfish with a snout like a pig, ears like a rabbit, and I’m just not sure what these bits, here, do.’ A tropical paradise nestled on a narrow strip of land rising up from the abyssal plain thousands of meters below. A place born of unimaginable violence, now a picture of idyllic tranquility. 

Trade winds blow in from the west as they always have, unceasing, carrying with them the moisture gathered as they crossed the Great Tethys Sea. Here, they trade just enough of that moisture, leaving it behind to grow lush jungles while carrying away the tropical heat, as they make their way across the ancient scar of Kerbin towards the Rim Range, where irresistible force meets immovable object. 

Along with the daily rains, the wind brings towering waves that curl into cylinders as they break upon the shore, a phenomenon called pípēlínē... if only to confuse tourists. Beyond the flawless white beaches, strewn with umbrellas and chaise lounges and the occasional unfortunate surfer, the waving palm trees lean ever to the east. The palms leave coconuts, and the coconuts bring crabs, oddly without a dad-a-chick? to be heard despite their fearsome size. 

Farther up, and further in, verdant forested hills rise to a few tens of meters. There are always palms to be found, but here in the dense canopy they must compete with rubber trees, plantains, breadfruit, the towering, fast-growing koa, and the ubiquitous macadamia. Squawking birds flit between the high branches, in such a dizzying array of vibrant colors one might think they sprang from a kerblet’s paint set. Below the birds is the realm of frogs and squirrels, tapirs, capybara, and the endearing kinkajou; an inquisitive creature with large eyes and luxuriously soft fur, that despite its endearing appearance is actually quite harmless. Unless one is a coffee bean.

Nestled here and there within the rolling jungle hills, the locals, too, have learned to reap the warm sun and nourishing rains. Plantations string out along hidden two-track roads, bringing forth pineapples and mangoes, papaya and dragonfruit, the fearsome durian, and every manner of bean that invigorates the mind and spirit. Further toward the lee side, and the hills are alive with sugarcane. Great refineries, so blended with the forest one barely knows they’re there, also use the power of the sun and ever-present wind to process that sugar into every sort of useful product... and occasionally the odd cask that once brought dramatically posing pirate captains from across the sea, and to a certain extent, still does. 

Down the hills to the lee beaches is where most of the residents have planted their own roots. There are no great cities here, no towering buildings. Unremarkable suburban homes mix with dwellings of logs and thatched roofs, unchanged for millennia, down quiet streets that might once have been paved, or perhaps not. 

Beyond the placid beaches, the seafloor drops slowly, as the water changes from crystal clear to turquoise to deep blue. Wandering shadows in the shallows belie massive coral reefs, populated by fish and invertebrates that seem bound and determined to shame the jungle birds with their own colorful displays. Further east the seafloor drops away once again, down and down and down farther still, beyond even the depth of the windward abyss, to the primeval dish of an ancient crater, as if a reminder from the cosmos itself that even an event of unrivaled brutality can bring forth unmatched beauty. 

It was rumors of this beauty that brought the Tall Ships centuries ago, fearsome Kerbs-o’-War from Gednalna beneath the flag of King Ælfred the Unready, searching for a fight. Because true to his epithet, all the good ones were already taken. Yet the would-be invaders were immediately taken by the beauty of this place, and found a fast and unexpected kinship with those already living here: the kind of rapport that can can only come between kerbs who wear skirts. 

What followed was, of course, a challenge of virility. The Gednalnans offered sheep’s offal boiled in its own stomach, and the natives soon learned the peculiar sensation of hair instantly growing on their chests. They responded with some sort of canned pork product, which led to its own bout of peculiar sensations as everyone was quite sure such a thing hadn’t actually been invented yet. 

Then the newcomers brought the challenge of listening to the Music of their People, played on a thing that looked and sounded like a dying animal. The natives, in turn, invited them to walk barefoot across hot coals, and everyone agreed this was quite preferable and good for the constitution. 

Finally, the would-be invaders offered Naln, a spirit of fermented barley aged for decades in charred oak barrels. The natives responded with something from a far-off land called kiviak, and in explaining got about as far as ‘fermented birds’ before The Gednalnans simply threw their hands up and said, “och, you win!” 

To the natives’ great relief, since they didn’t want to touch the stuff either. 

So together they all feasted on pit-roasted pig and fresh-caught Kahiokahumuhumunukunukuapua'apepeiao’elike’mekapipiaʻaʻolewau’emaopopoikeʻano’okēiamauhanaikēia, with plenty of Naln to go around, and regaled each other with tales of blue-faced warriors and red-haired maidens, ever-screaming sea chickens and singing Rocks. In the fullness of time, many of the mariners elected to stay on the island, lulled by the warm sand and cool breeze, or perhaps by the sinuous Hula Kahiko of the wahines. The wahines, for their part, were generally happy to have the Gednalnans, perhaps due to their habit of tossing telephone poles at one another to show off for the wahines.

Neither bothered to ask what a ‘telephone’ was. 

And so it was that an unexpected prize was returned to Ælfred the Unready... a steaming vat of lukewarm kiviak. Whereupon his son quickly assumed the throne, Æthelred the ‘Bloody Hells, Ah’m Not Drinking That, Are You Daft?!’. Who was much better at practical kingship than he was at making up catchy epithets. The land became a part of the ever-more eclectic collection of colonies beneath the Crown, under the name of Rim Island, which everyone agreed was just a lot easier to say. 

Over time, life changed here, as it did everywhere, as Gednalnans weary of the constant game of thrones back home settled here, and natives with a particular knack for not dying horribly in the midst of political intrigue found a use for their talents back there. Yet it was often said there remained only one point of contention on the island, the one hidden behind the only fence of any size to be seen. A place with its own seaport, its own airport, its own roads and buildings, a veritable civilization unto itself segregated behind three meters of electrified chain-link topped with razor wire. And, most recently, row after row of squat structures that seemed to be no more than massive slabs of reinforced concrete. Several of which, however, remained open in the fading afternoon light, covered in black soot, the area surrounding each scorched to bare ground. It was this that had drawn the small crowd outside the main gate, waving signs and chanting chants. 

But of course, this was not the only point of contention. While the world beyond held its breath, in a humble bungalow down an unremarkable street with a peekaboo view of the leeside beach, there was also clamor and raised voices. As there often was, of late. For even here, there was trouble in paradise...

***

A dish shattered against the wall, “...in the sink for three taffing days!”

“Bloody hells, kerbelle!” Macvey Kerman rose from his crouch, “Are yah tryin’ t’ put mah eye out?!”

“Maybe that would get your attention away from your thrice-cursed spacekerb game and actually help out around the place for once!” she said.

“Ah work 14 hours a day tryin’ t’ keep this roof over our heads, kinna’ not have even a couple hours to meself?!” he said.

“A couple of hours to shut me out off in your little make-believe land, more like, ‘cause you can’t deal with reality anymore! And when you’re not in front of that screen you’re off mugging about with your no-good mates and don’t think I don’t know what goes on down at that pub!” she said.

“Och, and you say Ah’m off in make-believe land! Every bloody weekend you’re off shopping wi’ that bunch o’ hags and running up the credit cards a little more! Why do yah think Ah work ‘til Ah kinna see straight?!” he said.

Bzz-bzz.

“I just want you to notice me again! Do you even remember where we met?!”

“Aye, Ah notice you every bloody time Ah pay the taffin’ bills! The balances get higher an’ higher and our bank account just gets lower, just so you can have another twenty pair o’ shoes t’ pile on the other fifty!”

Bzz-bzz.

“Don’t you dare place this all on me! We were doing fine until you bought that-that-that thing in the driveway!”

“Ah have to have some way to get to work to pay for your bloody shoes, kerbelle!”

Bzz-bzz.

“The duty tax alone was more than we see in a month! You love your mates and your screens and that bloody thing more than you ever did me!”

“None of them give me as much scunner as you do!”

“You’re not the kerb I married anymore!”

Bzz-bzz.
Tweet-tweet!

“Aye, he’s buried ‘neath a pile o’ shoes an’ debt!”

Bzz-bzz.
Tweet-tweet!

She spat an especially foul curse back, and stormed off toward the bedroom. 

Ding-dong.

“Now where the bloody hells d’you think you’re goin?” he said as she pulled the suitcase from the closet. 

Bzz-bzz.

“To my sister’s. I’ve had it with you!”

Tweet-tweet!
Ding-dong

“Oh? Well you can bloody well just stay with that harpy!”

Bzz-bzz.
Bzz-bzz.

”What did you say to me?!”

Bzz-bzz.
Tweet-tweet!
Ding-dong.

“Aye, you heard me! The lawyer’ll be cheaper than your taffin' shoes!”

Bzz-bzz.
Tweet-tweet!
Ding-dong.

“How DARE you! I—!”

The wall switched on, BZZZZT...BZZZZT...BZZZZT...BZZZZT...

THIS IS THE EMERGENCY BROADCAST SYSTEM. AN EMERGENCY ALERT IS IN EFFECT FOR THE FOLLOWING AREAS...

As one, their puffy, red faces went slack. Their eyes drew large for just a moment, then the lids sank down, trance-like. They stared in vague incomprehension at the words scrolling across the screen. 

Then from outside came the squeal of tires and the crunch of metal and glass. The two made their way outside, slowly, as if in a dream, and stared on with dim eyes as the ceaseless westerly breeze pulled at their clothes.  

There in the road, two kars had smashed together. Neighbors, friends from up the way, were rolling around in the street, yelling and screaming and beating each other with their fists. To the left, the neighbors were throwing things haphazardly into their minivan, to the right, they were just standing in the driveway crying. Somewhere a kar alarm was going off, and in the greater township beyond, the noise of sirens rose, and something that sounded like firecrackers. 

All around, the din of chaos rose... and then abruptly ceased. 

Everyone, all around, forgot themselves, and stared up at the sky to the unfamiliar sound... of silence. 

“The wind...” Macvey breathed, “it’s... stopped...”

An old soda can, finally dislodged from its lair of years, began to roll away. Then a scrap of paper. Then an empty garbage can. The wind picked up and began to blow again... but from the east

Someone screamed, a grating, knife-sharp sound that froze the nerves and seared the senses. Then someone else, and someone still. The neighbors who had been loading their van peeled out of their driveway, rear hatch still open, sending a fusillade of pebbles and bags flying and running over the two kerbs in the street without slowing. And then everyone... everyone just ran, ran toward the west. Macvey and Leilani turned...

A shadow arose in the east. 

Like a corrupt dawn, it rose, swallowing the sky and stretching from horizon to horizon, higher and higher, black as pitch despite the afternoon sun shining on it, as if consuming the very light itself. The wind roared before it, tearing at the land, seeming to carry the sound of vile laughter. 

Leilani’s hands rose to her mouth, eyes wide and fixed to the east, her face pulled taught in a scream her lungs could not give breath to. 

But Macvey reached out, brushed Leilani’s cheek, turned her from the horror with a touch as soft as a butterfly’s kiss, “you were sitting on a bench on the University quad in Edinkurgh, reading a book on business management, in a blue polka-dot dress that rippled when the breeze teased at your hair, black and shiny as a raven’s feather. Ah’d never seen hair that dark before, like the whole world seemed to fade before it. Ah dunno how long Ah sat there watching you— minutes, days, weeks— just tryin’ ta work up the nerve to walk over and talk to you. When Ah finally did, I had ta jam mah hands into mah pockets so you wouldn’a see them shaking. Ah must’ve looked a fright. And your eyes were so big and deep Ah thought Ah might just float away. 

“We walked over to that cafe just across the street, you ordered a coffee as dark and rich as your hair, and the whole time, mah mind was reeling, wondering what on Kerbin Ah could possibly think of to talk to you about.”

His face stretched into a smile, unperturbed, as the wind rose and howled around them, “we were still there talkin’ when they closed for the night, had to shoo us out like a couple of vagabonds. And as Ah walked you to your dorm, Ah remember thinking very clearly, that Ah would happily give up any of mah meager possessions for just one more moment with you.”

The wind ripped at them, tried to tear them apart. A low rumbling grew as the shadow raged higher and higher and all around became the wailing and gnashing of teeth. 

Macvey touched a hand to her other cheek, “Ah’ve been a blind, selfish, prideful old fool. Could you ever find it in your heart to forgive me?”

Leilani said nothing, but turned to him, and pulled his lips to hers, even as the shadow swelled to fill the sky. 

They stood there, frail and wounded, two broken souls before the tempest. 

Yet even as the wind roared and seas swelled and the land shattered, they stood

Even as chaos raged and the darkness laughed, they stood. 

Even as the shadow rose up and swallowed them, they stood. 

And denied it. 

Edited by CatastrophicFailure
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Also, fair warning, do NOT google Kiviak. Just... don’t... :wacko:

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4 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

What followed was, of course, a challenge of virility. The Gednalnans offered sheep’s offal boiled in its own stomach, and the natives soon learned the peculiar sensation of hair instantly growing on their chests.

This is legit. Can confirm. Truly a great chieftain of all puddings that e'en the wing of a Converter would be challenged to cleave. 

4 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Finally, the would-be invaders offered Naln, a spirit of fermented barley aged for decades in charred oak barrels.

Ahhh but would that be the gentle Naln of the Gednalnan lowlands? Redolent of honey, heather and the warming goodness of the sun o'er the loch. Or is it the fiery and unquenchable Naln distilled only on Eye-la. (Which is never, never to be confused with the neighboring isle of Islay.) That Naln is truly fit for a warrior, if only because its raw blend of salt and peat smoke laced with the medicinal tang of iodine makes for a handy disinfectant in times of need.

Also - inquiring minds would like to know - have the Gedalnan's discovered the delights of cranachan? A soothing yet nourishing blend of cream, fruit, oatmeal (because, by royal decree, all Gedalnan cuisine must contain oatmeal somewhere) and just enough Naln to put a gleam in your eye.

And I'm quite partial to the Music of the People myself. When heard from a safe distance it fair lifts the hair on your chest and makes you proud to be Gedalnan.

:)

Edit.  One Song of the People, albeit one of dubious historical accuracy which tends to be sung at Gednalnan sporting events or by Gednalnan's who have perhaps enjoyed just a touch more Naln than is typically deemed wise, goes something like this:

Spoiler

My Kerb's o' Gednalna. 
When will we see. Your like again.
That fought and died for
Your wee bit hill and glen - and stood against all
o' Loneankopa
And sent them homeward
Tae think again!

Those days are passed now
And in the past they must remain
But we can still rise now
And be the Kerbs again
That stood against all
o' Loneankopa
And sent them homeward
Tae think again!

 

Edited by KSK
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10 hours ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

Even as chaos raged and the darkness laughed, they stood. 

Even as the shadow rose up and swallowed them, they stood. 

And denied it. 

'oy, your killin' me here.

8 hours ago, KSK said:

Truly a great chieftain of all puddings that e'en the wing of a Converter would be challenged to cleave. 

IDK, Valentina could give it a fair shot. 

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On 11/6/2018 at 2:47 AM, CatastrophicFailure said:

Also, fair warning, do NOT google Kiviak. Just... don’t... :wacko:

Looked it up against your warning.

Its not thaaat bad.... Although.. a bit weird? I'm not sure

Edited by qzgy
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That... was ... OK, awesome is totally the wrong word, but seriously dude, your written verbosity of atmospheric rendering is... Well it would leave me speechless if I didn't have a thesaurus open before me.

 

Ne'er a dry eye in the 'ouse.

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Sorry for delays in replying, been one of those weeks... but, next chapter is well underway. This is shaping up to be another long and momentous (and quite a bit lighter) one... and shall feature its own soundtrack. :D

On 11/6/2018 at 1:15 AM, KSK said:

Edit.  One Song of the People, albeit one of dubious historical accuracy which tends to be sung at Gednalnan sporting events or by Gednalnan's who have perhaps enjoyed just a touch more Naln than is typically deemed wise, goes something like this:

I'm stealing dis. 'Tis stoled.

On 11/6/2018 at 1:15 AM, KSK said:

And I'm quite partial to the Music of the People myself. When heard from a safe distance it fair lifts the hair on your chest and makes you proud to be Gedalnan

An instrument that, at some point in its history, likely literally was a dead animal (or bits thereof) just begs for a bit of fun, but I do so  love me some bagpipe music:cool:

 

On 11/8/2018 at 4:04 AM, qzgy said:

Looked it up against your warning.

Its not thaaat bad.... Although.. a bit weird? I'm not sure

Welp, one description I found mentioned...

Spoiler

breaking the fermented birdlet's head off and drinking its insides...

:wacko: Seems a lot of northern cuisine hails from "stuff we forgot we buried last year."

On 11/8/2018 at 9:27 AM, Patupi said:

That... was ... OK, awesome is totally the wrong word, but seriously dude, your written verbosity of atmospheric rendering is... Well it would leave me speechless if I didn't have a thesaurus open before me.

I keep several around for just that reason... <_< This was another one of those scenes that's been, ahem, fermenting in my head for a very long time, should make the eyes water one way or another. :confused:

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